Sixth form colleges’ academy VAT pass announcement comes as perfect leaving present

David Igoe will stand down as chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association (SFCA) at the end of March. He told FE Week why he views Chancellor George Osborne’s decision to allow SFCs to become academies and gain VAT exemptions as the perfect leaving present.

It was really good news that Chancellor George Osborne announced on Wednesday (November 25) that Sixth Form Colleges will be able to apply to become Academies and gain the VAT exemption.

It is the culmination of a long campaign by the SFCA to persuade Ministers and the Treasury to give SFCs that option and end the anomaly of the VAT inequality.

These concessions were also on my personal wish list to achieve before I hang up my boots at the end of March 2016

Almost better news was the announcement that the rate would be protected for the life of this parliament and colleges could plan their futures without the spectre of further rate cuts hanging over them.

Given the limitations of the options open to the Department for Education, which will still have to find other savings, this is a significant victory for our campaign to expose the funding dip at key stage five (16-19) and the relative imbalance of funding across the phases.

Both decisions are a victory for the young people we educate, who can now have some prospect of a continuation of the excellent education SFCs provide.

If the Chancellor wanted to give us a Christmas present then he succeeded.

These concessions were also on my personal wish list to achieve before I hang up my boots at the end of March 2016.

I began my career in SFCs when we were a thriving segment of the schools system.

Incorporation in 1993 forced us into the FE world, but in recent months we have been campaigning for our sector to be both schools facing and, where sensible, to return to be an integral part of the schools provision in an area.

Becoming Academies is the start of that reality.

It is game-changing for area reviews which must now see SFCs, as not just another bit of the FE world, but as an integral part of multi-Academy trusts and the school/Academy system.

I think we have come home.

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